The Extent Of Chelsea’s International Friendly Influence Explored

by Sam Wheatley

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

John Terry has a nerve problem. This is not, as we are all aware from the England and Chelsea defender’s order-barking and silly headed-block throwing, a metaphorical term for his bravery and determination, but an actual medical issue. It turns out that he’s been in considerable pain since the end of last season. If anything, he held his nerve over his nerve, if you understand my meaning.

He’s out for an indeterminable amount of time, which comes as disappointing news for Chelsea. The club’s fortunes in his absence changed dramatically at the weekend as they were overrun by an enthusiastic and classy Sunderland side, emphatically beaten 3-0 at home – strange new territory in the recent history of Stamford Bridge.

Terry’s injury throws up a dichotomy. What is bad news for Chelsea may in fact be good news for England. The Blues played three full-backs in the back four at the weekend in Bosingwa, Cole and Ferreira, and it showed. They’ve lost Cole to injury now as well, and Bruma and van Aanholt, both of whom are probably not ready for the Premier League, are hardly adequate replacements. Alex is currently injured, and the lack of strength-in-depth across the back-line is in plain evidence. England are better placed to try someone new.

I expect a combination of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jagielka or Joleon Lescott to deputise for the injured Terry, and Gary Cahill (a star of the future in my reckoning) waits patiently in the wings. Lescott is becoming something of a lost cause now, and it would be nice to see Jagielka add to his international experience, as there’s no doubt he’s a talented player. Cole’s injury means that young Kieran Gibbs is at least likely to feature against France.

Glen Johnson’s publicly criticised form and groin injury have paved the way for an international return for Manchester City’s Micah Richards. It’ll be interesting to see how Richards copes with being back in the limelight after a considerable amount of time away from the England set-up. His form has been half-decent during City’s ascent to fourth this season.

Another Chelsea loss, Frank Lampard, may be England’s gain with hot prospect Jordan Henderson’s inclusion in the squad, not to mention Jack Wilshere’s continued selection, rewarding his fine club form. I’m not saying Lampard is completely surplus to requirements for England, but to blood Henderson and give Wilshere more experience is, in my opinion, invaluable to the evolution of the national team – something that will sooner or later inevitably bypass Lampard.

Chelsea will be cursing their luck over the loss of what is often deemed the spine of their team (and their only three England internationals, incidentally), but England will not be feeling the same strain. A national team obviously has an almost limitless (although potentially rubbish) pool of players to dip into but alarm bells are starting to ring over Chelsea’s squad depth.

Manchester United’s penchant for a draw and Arsenal’s patchy form which follows precisely the goalkeeper’s form (whoever he happens to be on any given week) may be Chelsea’s saving grace over the coming weeks, or months, or years depending on the extent of Terry’s mystical ailment. They will miss those players more than England will, I’d wager.

France are still in disarray after the World Cup, not that we fared much better, so England must strike whilst the iron is hot. Conversely, Malouda’s form for Chelsea is a bit of a blessing for France. However, there is no more Henry as Laurent Blanc attempts to rebuild Les Bleus, with Ribery still injured. Previously accepted mainstay Toulalan has been overlooked as well as in-form Marseilles striker André-Pierre Gignac. The absolutely rubbish Eric Abidal retains his place in the squad despite being the worst of a bad bunch in South Africa.

Whilst this France squad is severely depleted, keep your eyes peeled for young defender Mamadou Sakho, Yohann Gourcuff, Karim Benzema and ‘keeper Hugo Lloris as they are ones to watch should they feature. We’ll see just how important Chelsea’s influence on this game is tomorrow evening.

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